Parents of Teens: Beware the Vine (When Viral Marketing Goes Awry)

Just when you thought it was safe to give your kids an iPhone: adolescents have a new, potentially viral, way of making a name for themselves (and landing in jail, the emergency room, or on your local news).  Vine, an app that allows you to record and loop six seconds of video (and only six) all from your iPhone, requires a steep ramp in creativity as it helps savvy brands (and teens) to reach fans.

How much can you do in six seconds? GE’s six second science fair is perhaps one of the most inspirational, strategic, and targeted use of Vine I’ve seen:

It’s a fast, relatively inexpensive way to reach a lot of people with a condensed message.  And, the social media kickback doesn’t hurt either – a few popular, company-generated vines can inspire crowds to make their own, using your hashtag to increase their reach.

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Unfortunately, Vine’s become an inexpensive way for today’s teens to record and amplify their antics as well.

Matt Espinosa, a 16 year-old Virgina boy, has amassed quite a following of (mostly) younger adolescent girls through his Vines.  This past weekend, he organized a meet-up with his fans at a mall in Fairfax, Va.  The screaming pre-teens created such riotous chaos that other shoppers and security guards thought there was a shooting.  Espinosa is cute, no doubt, but this new ability to organize crowds via smartphones can lead to trouble, costing taxpayers and businesses money, and may not be the sort of fame he’s proud of in 20 years or so.

Last week, another teenage boy, Obi Nwosu, attempted to film himself jumping over an oncoming car for Vine.  He was hit by the car – and it was all caught on film.  Nwosu posted it to Vine originally, but then deleted it realizing that he shouldn’t “do it for Vine.”

The thing most teens (and many adults) still don’t seem to understand is that nothing is ever permanently deleted from the Internet.  It didn’t take long for the video to resurface and quickly gain cringe popularity.

Socialmediaphobe’s bottom line is, once again: parents, talk to your kids!  The speed of social media fame is incredibly fast; stunt videos that they may think make them cool can be dangerous and permanent, and have long-lasting implications on their health, their future college and job opportunities.  Many of today’s youth only access the Internet from their smartphones, making it even harder for parents to track their activities – and more important!  Know what your kids are doing, filming, and viewing online, and talk to them about making good choices.

This is something BatDad captures quite well – in a rather big-brotheresque way sure to make most parents smile.


Facebook PR: What does your FB page say about your brand?

While having a Facebook page for your organization is a start, truly making the most of the time you spend marketing on Facebook involves more than just setting up a page.  Over the next few days, I’ll be taking an in-depth look at the Facebook use of different organizations, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Diet Coke, looking specifically what perceptions of their brands can be taken away from their Facebook use.

You might not think that each time you post on Facebook you are contributing to the public perception of your brand, but social media use is public relations.  Whether you’re trying to reach out to prospective consumers or long-time clients in social media, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind.  What is the overall feel of your Facebook page?  What does your “About” page say about you?  What kinds of items do you post, and how frequently? Are you forwarding content along to your followers or creating your own?  Everything from your cover photo, to your status updates, to the number of comments gives viewers a sense of your brand – so be sure to be strategic and intentional in your choices.

For example, beginning with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Facebook public gets the sense that this organization is for and about kids.  All elements of this cover photo – the picture of the child at play, the green grass and blue sky, and the logo with high-fiving kids – are hopeful.

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The organization’s description on the “About” page is well-crafted and brief, and practically unnecessary because you get very good sense of the hospital’s brand by scrolling through its posts.  On Facebook, Cincinnati Children’s showcases its programs, posts links to its blog (written by both patients and staff), videos of physician Q&A sessions, recognizes donors, gives updates on road closures that might make driving to the hospital difficult, and posts health-related articles.  Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 6.36.17 AM

This Facebook page is both useful and uplifting, and not just for people living in the Cincinnati area.  The hospital also posts learning activities, family hiking ideas, and ways to encourage early literacy.  And pics of smiling patients with therapy dogs are loved by social media users.

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What does your Facebook page say about your brand?

Virality Is Not Accidential

Your Facebook feed is full of videos shared or liked by your friends.  Internet videos are showing up on CNN as news stories.  Everyone and their cousin’s cat has created their own Gagnam Style spoof.  What’s all the fuss about? Do you remember American’s Funniest Home Videos? Back before the Internet boom when we’d all gather around the television at night and watch complete strangers make asses of themselves?  Viral video is a lot like that, only instead of being chosen by a panel of judges, they are chosen by crowds.  Of all the millions of videos on the Web, a few rise to the top, and when they rise, they create such a buzz that it’s all anyone can talk about – for a week or two anyway.  There are varying definitions of viral, but about one-third of advertising executives say that to classify a video as viral it must have at least 1 million hits in a short time period (Eckler & Bolls, 2011).  Viral videos are short.  According to a study by Forrester Research, the average video is 1:42 minutes long, with more than one-third of videos under 60 seconds.

What makes a video go viral?

  • Ingenuity – Viral videos contain content that is new, either meaningful or funny (Eckler & Bolls, 2011). Viral videos show you a different way of looking at an issue, and give you hope:
  • Emotionality – If a video is to go viral, it must have some emotional draw.  Blogger Chris Atkinson says viral videos “should be arresting enough to elicit a physical reaction from the viewer (tears, laughter, goosebumps, gasps, etc.).” Viral videos make you laugh when you least expect it:   Viral videos contain an emotionality as contagious as the common cold: 
  • Creative disruption – Viral videos contain creatively disruptive content, according to blogger Christie Archer, forcing people to see things from a different perspective or surprising them with the unexpected:
  • Influencers – Videos don’t go viral on their own. Made by identifiable organizations or individuals, these creative videos are pushed to credible cultural influencers, who then amplify the publicity like this: 

Viral video production: Do potential advantages outweigh costs?

One advantage of viral videos is that the buzz generates more pull of content, and there’s less intrusive pushing by advertisers (Truong & Simmons, 2010).  People want to see what the fuss is about, and, like a good Super Bowl commercial, people tune in and expect to be moved by viral videos.  But, do viral videos really sell products?  They seem like a great tool for non-profit organizations seeking to change attitudes, or brands seeking to humanize or change brand perception in some way.  While counting the number of views is easy, measuring the impact of viral videos in the marketplace seems more difficult and is an area of future study.

My personal viral favorites

  • Viral videos inspire creative reactions: 
  • Viral videos make you cry, get you noticed, and make you famous: 

Mothering by the Numbers

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Years pass, but what changes?

Years pass, but what changes?

At some point yesterday morning – maybe it was the third time my nearly five year-old son threw himself to the floor in a fit over cereal, or maybe it was the realization that I hadn’t done laundry all weekend long and that same son wore pants from the dirty clothes hamper to school – I decided it might be fun to count my daily chores.

  • Trips to school: 4
  • Loads of laundry: 5
  • Flights of stairs: 46
  • Meals prepared: 5 (kid and adult versions of breakfast and dinner)
  • Beds made: 0 (woops)
  • Books in Progress: 4
    • Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Drs. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson
    • The Fiction Class by Susan Breen
    • Liking the Child You Love by Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein
    • Miraculum: Poems by Ruth L. Schwartz
  • Hours worked (for pay): 8
  • Trips to grocery store: 1
  • Miles on stationary bike: 13
  • Cups of coffee: 3
  • Cans of Diet Coke: 2
  • Times my four year-old son melted to the floor in fits of horror: 6
  • Mom blogs visited: 3
  • Times I checked Facebook on my computer: 2
  • Times I checked Facebook on my iPhone: 5
  • Times I checked Twitter: 2
  • Number of clicks on articles found in Twitter feed: 5

Moms represent such a huge and influential market that I thought I’d share some other statistics about the power of moms.

  • By the time of baby’s second birthday, there have been 7,300 diaper changes (Piekut, 2008)
  • Preschoolers require mom’s attention every four minutes (Piekut, 2008)
  • Moms mention brands 73 times per week vs. 57 mentions per week for men (Walter, 2012)
  • 64% of moms ask other moms for advice before purchasing a new product (Walter, 2012)
  • 63% of moms consider other moms to be the most credible experts (Walter, 2012)
  • One in three moms are bloggers (Bodnar, 2012)
  • According to the Department of Agriculture’s Center for Policy and Promotion, the average weekly grocery bill for a family of four was $236.60 (Sehghetti, 2012)
  • Moms represent a $2.4 trillion market (Walter, 2012)
  • The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are 85.4 million estimated moms in the United States alone (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 2011)

So, the next time your spouse comes home and wonders why you haven’t changed out of your pajamas, let him know that not only did you ensure that your children survived the day, you also kept the market afloat.



Bodnar, K. (2012). 21 Internet marketing stats that will blow your mind. Retrieved from:


Seghetti, N. (2012). Prepare to pay an extra $875 for food in 2013 (unless you use these 4 tips). Retrieved from:


Walter, E. (2012). The top 30 stats you need to know when marketing to women. Retrieved from:


U.S. Department of Comerce. Retreived from:

For my Valentine: Our love is so great it’s illegal in 40 states (Or, Valentine, Patron Saint of Marriage Rights)

And so the deluge of anti-romantic pessimism on social media begins.  I *might* be a newlywed, but I just don’t get it.  All the hype and drama from single people about how they don’t need another holiday to make them feel more alone (thanks Lady Edith) – not only does it bring me down, it takes the meaning away from Valentine’s Day altogether.  Same with the spouses and partners who somehow don’t seem to make mental notes as they put away the Christmas decorations, and don’t seem to notice when the calendar turns to February.  Do these people NEVER set foot in a grocery store?  I’ve been dodging stray pink helium heart balloons for weeks now.  It’s not a Hallmark holiday like Grandparents Day (I adore my grandparents, by the way, but had to plead my case to a seven year-old this past June when I purchased Father’s Day cards made for Grandpa), or Sweetest Day (perhaps this one’s only in Ohio).  I’ve read about St. Valentine, but never did it strike me as much as it did this year.  This bishop is the patron saint of marriage rights.  Check out this Mashable video (suitable for viewers of all ages):

Why has the LGBT community not adopted this saint yet?  I never expected to be linking to the 700 Club, but even their synopsis of St. Valentine’s legacy is pro-marriage.  Is it just me, or are these folks making a pretty solid case for equal marriage rights here?  I hereby declare St. Valentine to be the patron saint of LGBT marriage rights – and I guess there’s no pope right now to stop me.  Perhaps Illinois will celebrate Valentine’s Day by voting for marriage rights for all later today.

Did you forget Valentine’s Day? There are social media Valentine’s options…  Stop what you’re doing (after you like this post) and text your sweetie a message.  Something like: “I love you.”  Or, “Our love is so intense it’s illegal in 40 states.”  Or go to and print the Valentine you think best suits your love.  There are lots of cute ideas on Pintrest as well.  We’ll be playing Valentine’s math with pink kisses later this afternoon at our house. But, whatever you do, let Valentine’s Day be about the freedom to love, and the power of love – and delight in it!

Facebook: Don’t Mess with My Downton (or Take a Deep Breath, a Sip of Scotch, and Review Your Privacy Settings)

Confession: I read past the spoiler warning every time.  So, when I signed onto Facebook Monday morning and was greeted by friends who’d seen Downton Abbey the night before and were shocked and saddened by the episode, I couldn’t help but do a bit of research.  My Facebook friends were kind and did not divulge the source of their grief – but I knew something big had happened and couldn’t wait until the full British version arrived (we do DVDs, not DVR) to see it.Screen shot 2013-01-30 at 12.21.52 PM

The Internet is so easily searchable that in 20 seconds or less I’d found out what all the fuss was about, felt my own dismay, anger, and grief, AND couldn’t share it with those in my household!  For the second time in a month, I wished Facebook didn’t exist (way to blame the source smphobe!).  It made me want to organize my Facebook friends into “people who watch Downton” and “people who could care less about a subtle, British, dialogue-driven series”.  With the U.S. launch of Facebook’s new graph search, finding this information should be easy.  With graph search, Facebook indexes data from personal profiles and status updates (i.e., places, photos, people, Likes, etc.) to make it searchable.

Many in the blogging and digital community are up in arms about the potential privacy risks.  I don’t see much room for debate here.  Facebook programmers are trying to find ways to improve their product, and certainly needed to improve their search function.  It’s not Facebook’s problem that your kid tried to hock black market pantry items to his friends or that your daughter has a mind of her own, fell in love with the help and ran away to Ireland to marry. Those are personal problems until one makes the choice to share on Facebook.  It’s our responsibility to check our privacy settings.  Facebook graph search will only index information set for the “public”, so now is the perfect time to review your privacy settings and talk to your kids (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE) about how future employers will query Facebook to vet job applicants.  If you wouldn’t write it on a billboard or wear it on your t-shirt, don’t put it on Facebook!  What I’d really like from Facebook (or iOS) is some sort of intoxication alert that won’t allow publishing on Facebook or sending Tweets that you may regret in the morning.

I’m on the waiting list to try the Facebook graph search beta. If I had it today I’d search for friends in my city who like Downton Abbey and invite them over this weekend for a Downton-style feast (and marathon, as the DVDs are scheduled to arrive Saturday!).